According to the Pew Research Center, there are more than 20.4 million veterans alive today in the United States, slightly more than one in sixteen Americans. This weekend, we commemorate their sacrifice, and the sacrifices of their loved ones, as we observe Veteran’s Day. We take time as a country to recognize the efforts of the members of our armed forces – Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines and Navy – as they defended our freedom in World War II, the Korean Conflict, the Viet Nam War, the Gulf War and in peace-time service. We recognize those who are presently serving on ships and at bases across the globe, and we recognize those who remain at home awaiting their return.
When I turned eighteen (in the winter of ’84), there were no on-going war zones and so I was not compelled to enlist or serve. In a way, I feel that I missed out on something special. I was not willing to endure the hardships of basic training or the rigors of living in barracks. I also missed out on the camaraderie and support of one soldier supporting another, of one pilot protecting the back of another, of one sailor confiding in another or one marine securing the success of another. We must respect these servicewomen and men who see the cause ahead of them as greater than all they have left behind and are willing to bear the cost that cause demands.
Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 2:3
How does that old camp song go? “I may never march in the infantry, ride in the cavalry, shoot the artillery. I may never fly o’er the enemy, but I’m in the Lord’s army!” Now, I am in no way equating the life-threatening peril faced by a veteran and the daily drudgery of a follower of Christ. What I am thinking about is what might happen if the kingdom of God had citizens who were willing to suffer as a good soldier. What ground could be claimed, what captives could be set free, if we, as followers of Christ, see the cause ahead of us – the redemption of souls through the furthering of the gospel – as greater than all we want to keep for ourselves. What if we, too, were willing to bear the cost that cause demands.
There is a great debt that we all owe to all those who are willing to sacrifice everything for our freedom. This debt extends from Jesus, who entered enemy territory to set us free from the bondage of death and sin, to every member of the military, who entered enemy territory to secure life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We ought to be grateful for the sacrifices that secure our freedoms and recognize the costs that others have made. May the followers of Christ have the same commitment to those around them that the veterans we celebrate on November 11th have.
For those who wore, or are wearing, the flag on their shoulder, we thank you.
On Sunday night, the Boston Red Sox won their fourth World Series in the last fifteen years. As I was preparing my thoughts for this post, I read my post from November 1, 2013, the last time the Red Sox won it all. At that time, I was particularly impressed with John Lackey, who had a checkered past as a Red Sox pitcher but came up big in the playoffs, even getting the win in the Series clinching game. He was a living example of the biblical practice of “forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead (Philippians 3:13).”
This time around it was another pitcher, in fact the pitcher who got the win in this year’s Series clinching game, with whom I was particularly enamored. David Price, the highest paid player on the Red Sox, has always been an ace (an exceptional starting pitcher) in the regular season, but, entering the 2018 post-season, had amassed an 0-9 record in games he started in the playoffs. It looked like it would be more of the same this year when Price lost to the Yankees in game 2 of the A.L. Divisional Series and received a no-decision in game 2 of the A.L. Championship Series.
Hope for the hometown team was flagging when Price was named the starter for game 5 of the ALCS. However, as Price put it, he “figured something out while [warming up in the bullpen for a possible relief appearance in game 4], and it kind of just carried over” into his start the following day. He was spectacular, earning his first win in the playoffs as a starter (and clinching the American League pennant). He was then spectacular a few days later, in game 2 of the World Series, earning his second win, and then, a few days after that, winning his third consecutive start and securing the World Series for the Red Sox.
The amazing truth in all this is that David Price is in the middle of his contract (which, I remind you, is the highest in Red Sox history) and – win, lose or no-decision – would have been paid the same amount for the next 4 years. Yet, Price pitched three times in the World Series (once as a reliever) and willingly sacrificed himself for he team. Price literally did everything he could do to win, leaving everything he had on the field of play. By doing this, he went from scapegoat to hero in the span of ten days.
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17
Because of David Price, I am reminded that all that I do can and should glorify God. It is only reasonable for me to do all that I am capable of doing in building for His kingdom, expanding His gospel and expressing His love to those around me. I am able to sacrifice more than I think so that I can accomplish more than I expect. I thank God that our record from the past does not dictate our productivity in the future. When we are willing to do whatever it takes, sometimes God will use that to enable us to take it all.
This past week the city of Boston mourned the loss of two of its heroes: Boston Fire Department’s Lieutenant Ed Walsh and Firefighter Michael Kennedy. I cannot say that I knew these brave men who perished battling an inferno on Beacon Street last Wednesday, only that I wish I had. From the glimpses of their personal and professional lives I’ve gotten from the news coverage, these were compassionate and strong men cut down in the prime of life. My thoughts and prayers go out to all those who knew and loved them.
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13 (NIV)
Lt. Walsh and FF Kennedy are just two of the hundreds of heroes that we in the city of Boston are blessed to have. The tragedy of March 26th should remind us all of the risks and sacrifices that our city’s finest – our police, fire and emergency officers – make for us every day. We ought to be grateful that there are those among us willing to enter burning buildings, active crime scenes and smashed vehicles to ensure our safety and security. We are blessed that there are those who are willing to lay down their lives for us.
If you were like me, it was emotionally overwhelming to see the thousands of officers in uniform from all across the globe in Watertown and West Roxbury paying tribute to their fallen brothers. As I watched portions of the funerals, I thought of the other officers at their posts, at their fire stations waiting for a call, waiting to risk their lives for the sake of their community. It was in that moment that the words of Jesus reached their greatest clarity in my mind: there is no greater love than this.
Later this month, we will observe Easter and celebrate the Lord’s victory over death. But before we can celebrate by singing “He Lives” and “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” we will need to endure Good Friday, the day we watch the Savior die. Jesus knew that his disciples were not fully prepared for this and so he shares his heart with them on the eve of his death. Among a great many other things, he shares the words quoted above. His words are comforting to those whom life has dealt a bitter blow. His words remind us of the great love those who sacrifice all have for others and the great love God has for us.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 (NIV)
Our hope and comfort begins with the fact that Christ died for us; that he laid down his life for us, his friends. Our hope and comfort remains due to the fact that death could not hold him and that he rose victorious, and he promises to take all who believe in him to be with him forever. This is the hope and comfort I pray for the Walsh and Kennedy family and for all those who sacrifice – on home soil or foreign – for our collective safety and security.